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Watts: On the Cycling Horizon

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Watts: On the Cycling Horizon

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the development of cycling infrastructure and culture in Indianapolis has stalled, at least temporarily, under the Hogsett administration. It had such momentum when Greg Ballard was mayor from 2008 to 2016. Indeed, Austin Gibble wrote an article in a local blog in September 2017, not long after Joe Hogsett became mayor, under the headline, “Indianapolis Loses Its Bicycling Mojo."

He notes in his article a steep decline in bicycle commuting, and a disjointed approach to the development of bicycle infrastructure. He argues for a number of remedies, including better budgeting for bicycle infrastructure, more protected lanes and bikeways, and other provisions to make cycling more safe and convenient.

It’s not that nothing has happened in the first three years of the Hogsett administration. The protected bike lane along Michigan Avenue, in front of IUPUI, has changed my life for the better, and I am grateful for it every time I pass that way. But, it has been very difficult to see a strategy for developing bicycle infrastructure in any kind of systematic way in the city. In the Ballard years, you could go on a city website and see plans for new bike lanes and trails by timeframe — some were planned for the next two years, others for the next five years, and still others for the next ten years. There appears to be no such plan now, and the development of infrastructure has seemed sporadic and haphazard.

But, it seems that we are about to leave this listless period, and enter a more dynamic period, with a series of very exciting cycling projects on the horizon. In this column, I will provide an overview of major projects scheduled for completion in the next two years. In future columns, I will go into more detail about some of these projects, and how they will connect and open up new parts of the city to cyclists and pedestrians.  

Before I get to my overview, however, let me mention a related development which, in my view, has the potential to improve cycling in the city in tangible ways.  In recent years, the city has contracted street sweeping out to a private company. Now, the city is acquiring its own fleet of sweepers, and will take over this job. As part of this project, it is acquiring a sweeper designed and sized for bicycle lanes and paths. Beginning this summer — and, possibly, as soon as May — there will be a dedicated sweeper out cleaning bike lanes and paths. Those of us who regularly ride the city know that broken glass is a constant pain in the tread; I have sometimes had three flats in one week. This sweeper will surely not eliminate the problem, but it could make things a whole lot better for many of us.

In putting together this list of projects due for completion in the next two years, I am beholden to Mark Zwoyer, the Administrator for Engineering Design at the Department of Public works who provided the information. I am also grateful to Joshua Tharp, the Operations Manager for the Pacers Bikeshare, who keeps excellent minutes for the Indianapolis Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, which meets monthly. I have included in this list major projects to be completed in 2019 and 2020.

1 // A multi-use trail around the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This trail will partly solve the problems caused by the closure of the grounds to pedestrians and cyclists three years ago. There will also be a Pacers Bikeshare Station on the campus. The cost of the trail is about $1 million, with the Art Museum and the city sharing the cost. To be complete in 2019 or 2020, depending on the Art Museum.

2 // Widening of Monon from 10th to 96th Street. This project is scheduled to be completed in 2020, and will involve closures and detours for those using the Monon. The cost is about $3.5 million.

3 // Enhancement of three sections of the Pleasant Run Trail at a cost of about $2.1 million. Scheduled for completion in 2020.

4 // Construction of the Monon bridge over 38th Street. This is scheduled to be completed in 2020, presumably in conjunction with the widening of the Monon. Cost: about $4 million.

5 // Extension of the Canal Towpath from 30th Street to Burdsal, due to be completed in 2020 at a cost of $1.6 million. This will reclaim an overgrown section of the historic canal, and will bring infrastructure to an underserved corner of the city. It will also connect the Canal Towpath to the extended Fall Creek Trail (see below), and to the bike lanes on Burdsal.

6 // Extension of the Fall Creek Trail from 10th St. to Burdsal. Due for completion in 2020 at a cost of about $2.5 million.

7 // Cold Spring multi-use pathway from 30th Street to the Velodrome, due for completion in 2019 at a cost of about $775,000. This will connect with the existing bike lane on Cold Spring Road from Lafayette Road to 30th St.

8 // Buffered bike lanes and sidewalks on 22nd Street from Capital Avenue, near the White River Trail, to Dr. A. J. Brown Avenue. This is part of a road resurfacing project scheduled to be completed in 2019 at a total cost of about $2 million.

9 // Resurfacing of the existing Fall Creek Trail, which, in many places, is broken up by tree roots. The project will be divided into two parts, with the north half to be completed in 2019 and the southern half in 2020, at a total cost of about $2 million.

In my view, this is an impressive list of projects, and suggests that there will be nearly $20 million of investment in new infrastructure over the next two years. It also brings infrastructure to some areas that have been underserved. It is also worth noting, however, that only one of these projects, the improvement of the Pleasant Run Trail, is on the south side of the city, compounding the neglect of that area relative to the north.

In upcoming articles, I will examine some of these projects in more detail. One project that I plan to focus on is the one that extends the Canal Towpath to Burdsal Avenue, and connects it to the Fall Creek Trail. For me, this is an exciting new development, which will open up areas that have not received the attention they deserve, and make for new ways of moving around our city.

Which of these projects affects you most, or would you like me to cover next? Place your vote below.


Bill Watts professes English and directs the First-Year Seminar program at Butler University.

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